Q Magazine
November, 2007

© 2007 / Michael Odell

The 21 People Who Changed Music: John Lydon


He was an antichrist. He was an anarchist. By Michael Odell


It was 1977 when you were 21. Can you remember your 21st birthday?

What was I doing on my birthday? I dunno... I was doing everyone else's dirty work, wasn't I? I was asking a few questions about a depressing country and getting vilified for it. But I wasn't keeping a tour diary or getting it down on DVD. I'm not the sort to write my own epitaph.

Anarchy In The UK - still relevant?

Oh well, let's see who's on the horizon. David Cameron? Good fucking luck! I think the British people lack self-esteem. They find these upper-class idiots and say. "Rule me, rob me, take everything I've got!" Gordon Brown seems like a belligerent sort - riding a three-legged hobby horse. I say bring back Arthur Scargill [hardline '80s miners' union leader] At least he had a point of view. The problem was he mixed it up with communism. A bit like AI Gore. He's got some good ideas but he wants communism in reverse. He wants to control the choices we are allowed to make.

One day the Palace rings. They offer you a knighthood. What do you say?

No thank you, though people always assume I hate her. I don't. I like the pageantry of the monarchy. It's thousands of years old. We should keep it. We shouldn't replace it with a socialist doctrine. We can overhaul it. I know I live in California now, but I pay my taxes so I get my say. With me and Mrs Windsor it was never personal. I've moved on. What shocked me was that in the '70S you weren't even allowed to have a debate about the monarchy. Well, I'm sorry, but you have to earn my allegiance by example not demand. I want to know what I'm getting into. I want to know if you're corrupt.

You wrote the lyrics to God Save The Queen at your mum's breakfast table waiting for your beans on toast. Did you know what a price you'd pay?

People wouldn't believe it now. To be discussed in parliament under the Treason Act, which carried the death penalty. [Bernard Brook - Partridge MP laid a motion at the time to debate whether we were traitors! [Brook-Partridge was actually a member of the Greater London Council, not an MP. He proposed the Pistols "would be vastly improved by sudden death”] On the street there was no debate. I still can't close my left hand properly after getting done in. I got a machete in the knee and a bottle in the face. Mind you, the worst injury was at Barrowlands in Glasgow. Some woman threw a high-heeled shoe at me and got me in the forehead. I was walking around with a third eye for a month.

But you've mended some fences now...

I've met Pink Floyd and they're alright as people [in 1975 Lydon famously wore an
"I hate Pink Floyd  T-shirt] Of course, I hated what they stood for in the '70s. They were smug, spoilt, university boys who had all the money and they wanted their "fine musicianship" performed in stadiums. No one else was allowed a look in. But in retrospect some of the records were alright - the Syd Barrett ones.

Malcolm McLaren says living in America has made you boring.

I came to America because they've got the most weapons, simple as that. I'm
a pragmatist If a war starts then at least I'm near the biggest missiles! It's debatable whether I'd be more interesting if I lived in London. The fact is, I don't think I'd be alive and that's always an obstacle to creativity. I'm past feuds, But don't forget I've had to live first-hand with Malcolm's ideas about what constitutes "interesting". They were always a little bit cheeeeesy, if you know what I mean.

You're often angry about punk revisionism. Name a specific lie.

The fucking Ramones. There is now actual history been written of a gig where we are supposed to have visited the Ramones and asked them how to playa riff. Fuck am I checked - I was doing a gig of me own! Or visiting me granny! The Ramones couldn't write a lyric or sing one for that matter. It's a disgrace.

It now seems unbelievable that the Sex Pistols got paid $67 for their final show at San Francisco's Winterland in 1978.

$67 and I never saw a cent of it. Mostly we'd get a £20 note between us. When you go against the grain that's what happens. You just get on with it. We got shafted, reamed, rogered and buggered.

Do you think you were any good?

People have started to say. “They could really play." I didn't think it at the time. But now... I think Paul [Cook]was an amazing drummer. He deserves recognition for that. Our pace and our tempo were good. Also, when you see all the wannabe's in leather jackets with a go-faster sneer who came after, we were poets. Our lyrics were good.

In 2005 you told Q you wanted Justin Timberlake to star in the film adaptation of your autobiography, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. How's that coming along? Is Timberlake going to play you?

Well, I think he would be good to watch. The problem is US film financiers want their reality. They will ask, ''Where's the love interest, John?" And I will have to say to them, "This is not a love story, this is what actually happened." Anyway, if Timberlake can't do it I was thinking James Earl Jones or Laurence Fishburne to play me [Q starts laughing! What are you fucking laughing for? This is a universal tale, You've got to make your small predictable little brain see beyond colour.

The 30th Anniversary Never Mind The Bollocks vinyl series will be released throughout October.

back to top...
JohnLydon.Com Home
| Rotten Talk | News | Bollocks Section | Biography | Records | TV | Films | Written Word |
| Spoken Word | Interviews | Lyrics | Art | Images | Multi-Media | Links |